Bracing for a Turbulent 'Day After' in Israel
If we analyze the logic of Israel's enemies, we can understand that the term "after the war" used by various officials and pundits has no real meaning.
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“The day after” the Israel-Hamas war is what everyone wants to talk about, and everyone seems to have their own opinion about “the day after” in Gaza and “the day after” Hamas.
Michael Oren, a former Israeli ambassador, believes it “begins, first, with Gaza’s demilitarization” as well as a buffer zone between one and two kilometers in depth.1
Some Israeli and American officials are envisioning a transitional governing body that will be, in effect, a “Gaza reconstruction authority.” Both groups of officials are hoping that Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, can play a key role — providing money, leadership and legitimacy for the Gaza reconstruction effort.2
Apparently, the State Department has prepared a roughly 20-page document outlining basic steps and options for the post-conflict phase.
Herb Keinon, an analyst for The Jerusalem Post, had a much different take about when “the day after” will arrive, writing: “One early sign will be when trucks bringing humanitarian aid into Gaza are not commandeered by Hamas terrorists, and when Gazans do not have to loot those trucks out of fear that if they don’t do so, the food, water, and medicine on those trucks won’t reach them but will rather be seized by Hamas along the way.”3
All cynicism aside, most reasonable people agree that, after 75 days of fighting, there won’t be any one “ah-ha” moment when everyone realizes that Israel won the war.
For the sake of comparison, Israel’s military moved into the Palestinian cities in Judea and Samaria (also known as the West Bank) for the first time in 2002 to clear out the terrorist infrastructure that had developed there under the Oslo Accords. It took some 30 months to do this and effectively bring an end to the Second Intifada. The infrastructure that’s been built in Gaza is far more extensive and advanced. To clean it out is sure to take longer.
Yesterday, a new poll published by the Israel Democracy Institute showed that more than two-thirds of Israelis believe elections should be held as soon as the war is over — 66 percent of Jewish Israelis and 84 percent of Arab Israelis.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his governing coalition would like the war to end much later, since they all took office exactly one year ago. But their fate is likely to be controlled by National Unity Party head Benny Gantz and when he decides to leave the emergency government, which he entered with Netanyahu on October 11th, just four days after the Palestinians’ massacre in Israel.
To understand what “the day after” might look like, we have to understand where we started — and it wasn’t on October 7th. The Palestinian massacre on this Saturday, as horrific as it was, was not an isolated event detached from the geopolitical reality that existed before it. It took place on the grounds of continuous violence against Israel, conducted on a small scale since the events of “Operation Guardian of the Walls” in May 2021.
Marked by protests by Arab Israelis in mixed Jewish-Arab cities, police riot control, rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip, “Operation Guardian of the Walls” was triggered when Palestinians in East Jerusalem began protesting over an anticipated decision of the Supreme Court of Israel to evict six Palestinian families in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
Then, in October 2022, Lebanon and Israel agreed to solve their maritime border dispute under the mediation of the United States, even though the former two countries have no diplomatic relations and are officially at war. The agreement, signed from Israel’s side by then-interim prime minister Yair Lapid, officially settled a years-long maritime border dispute involving major oil and gas fields in the Mediterranean.
Yet this agreement only occurred after Hezbollah openly threatened to target Israel’s entire gas production and risk all-out war if Israel proceeded with its plan to unilaterally extract gas from the contested Karish gas field. Israel backed down from its long-held position and relinquished the entire contested area, rather than receiving 45 percent as earlier proposed.
Available evidence — including Israeli media reports, Israel’s intelligence assessments, and the fact that the IDF Northern Command was put on high alert — indicates that Israel took Hezbollah’s threats seriously, 16 years after the last major confrontation between them.
At the same time, a wave of violence from Arab Israeli criminal gangs washed over the Jewish state, and severe signs of anarchy from the Israeli Bedouin communities were evident in the country’s south. Israel dealt with all of these phenomena separately, seemingly unable to understand that there was a thread connecting them.
According to Dr. Doron Matza, who specializes in Palestinian issues, Israeli Arabs, and the Arab-Israeli conflict, these events are actually the beginning of the Arab-Iranian-Palestinian campaign against the State of Israel. In other words, there are lower-intensity attacks on Israel, in between the great classical wars, that run alongside a normal routine of existence — mainly waged by the Palestinians (in the West Bank, in East Jerusalem, in Gaza, and Arab Israelis) with the backing and indirect participation of Iran and Hezbollah.4
The idea is to erode the strategic order that was built over the last decade and a half, reaching its peak with the signing of the “Abraham Accords.” It was also about to be strengthened by a normalization agreement with Saudi Arabia.
Israel’s enemies seek to diminish it from the prosperous economic-technological model it has developed, crush the foundations of its society of Western abundance, and return the Middle East to its classic identity politics based on national and religious ideologies.
From this point of view, the October 7th massacre is nothing more than an attempt to upgrade the Palestinian-Arab-Iranian attack against Israel. Hamas raised the bar for the intensity of the war, followed by the other players in the “resistance” camp — Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen, the pro-Iranian militias in Syria and Iraq, and even the antisemitic Islamic branches in the West.
This is not just a dry chronological framing of the last two and a half years, but an internalization of the broad context from which practical meaning is derived. The strategic purpose of the Arab-Palestinian-Iranian coalition is to wear down Israel, harm its national strength, and crack its economy in a chronic war of trickling violence imposed on it by a Ukraine-style reality.
The challenge in front of Israel is how to counter these strategy. If we analyze the logic of the adversary in depth, we can understand that the term “after the war” used by various officials and pundits has no real meaning, since it is supposed to continue — in different arenas and with varying intensity — even after the end of intensive military activity in Gaza.
At the cognitive level, Dr. Matza suggests Israelis ought to hurry and internalize this reality because it means that Israel must prepare for a long war, “Ukrainian” in its characteristics. Israelis must develop muscles that have been neglected, such as self-production of weapons to reduce dependence on the United States, as well as the development of specific military cooperations (for example, in the Red Sea).
Above all, the Israeli public, and those across the world who are passionate about the Jewish state, must be prepared for adapting to this reality.
“This will require a spartan, warrior, lean society,” said Dr. Matza, to deal with the campaign between wars, which has turned into a war for all intents and purposes.
“The Day After.” Clarity with Michael Oren.
“The Gaza war inches toward the day before ‘the day after’.” The Washington Post.
“When will we know the ‘day after’ Israel-Hamas War has arrived?” The Jerusalem Post.
“לא יהיה היום שאחרי המלחמה” Ynet News.